- Oil slick found in search for plane
- Plane's silence leads to 'catastrophic explosion' speculation
- Missing Malaysia Airlines flight triggers heart-wrenching airport scenes
- Passenger manifest
Authorities searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet are investigating the possibility of foul play after an Italian and an Austrian thought to have been on board were revealed to have had their passports stolen.
Six Australians on board missing plane
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Six Australians on board missing plane
A search and rescue is underway after a flight to China vanished. Editor's note: Since this video was published, Malaysia Airlines revised the number of Australians on board from seven to six.
Italian Luigi Maraldi, 37, was on holiday in Thailand and immediately phoned home after seeing on the news that an Italian with his name was on the vanished airliner - and before his father had seen the news.
The jet's fate has baffled the six nations searching for the aircraft, with no reports of distress calls, emergency-beacon signals or bad weather and no indications why a plane would lose touch in one of the safest phases of flight.
Vietnamese air force planes have spotted two large oil slicks off the southern tip of Vietnam which may be from the missing Malaysian jetliner that was carrying 239 people, including six Australians.
"It is very puzzling right now," said John Cox, an accident investigator and chief executive officer at Safety Operating Systems in Washington. "We have conflicting very early lines of evidence."
While there was no information pointing to a possible bomb or terror attack, Malaysia is studying all possibilities, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters.
The stolen Austrian passport belonged to a 30-year-old man who reported the theft in 2012 in Phuket, Thailand, the foreign ministry said. He was contacted and found to be "well," said Martin Weiss, a ministry spokesman. Luigi Maraldi, an Italian national also shown on the manifest, didn't travel on the plane, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aldo Amati said.
A Queensland couple who wanted to spend more time travelling in their older age were two of the six Australian passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 239 people, vanished while flying across the ocean between Malaysia and Vietnam early Saturday morning.
Neighbours said Catherine and Robert Lawton, aged 53 and 57, had already been on a trip to Asia and were "looking to see a bit of the world" now their three daughters had moved out.
Springfield Lakes resident Robbie Daintith, who lives across the road from the couple and would often put their bins out when they travelled, said they were "lovely people" who adored their young grandchildren.
"We knew from talking to them that they were planning to go away for a period of time again. They did a similar trip this time last year," Mr Daintith said.
"They were lovely people who always said hello, were always happy to have a chat and always offering to help out in any way they could."
He said Ms Lawton didn't work because of a visual impairment but her husband was employed.
The pair is understood to have been travelling on the flight with Brisbane couple Rodney and Mary Burrows.
Two other Australians on board the flight have been identified as NSW couple Yuan Li, 32, and Naijun Gu, 31.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has released a statement saying it "fears the worst" for the Australian passengers.
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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman Kerin Ayyalaraju said Australian consular officials were in "urgent and ongoing contact" with Malaysia Airlines, and were speaking with distraught family members in Australia and offering "all possible consular assistance".
The plane vanished somewhere off Vietnam's Tho Chu Island, northwest off the country's southernmost Cape Ca Mau. The airline lost contact with the aircraft after it departed Kuala Lumpur.
It was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30am carrying 239 people, including two infants and 12 crew members.
Passengers included 152 Chinese people, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, three Americans and two Canadians. There were also passengers from New Zealand, Italy, France, Ukraine, Russia, Netherlands, Austria and Taiwan.
If all passengers are found dead, it will be the world's worst air tragedy in a decade.
A 20-kilometre long oil slick spotted between Malaysia and Vietnam on Saturday afternoon was thought to be the first sign that the plane went down in the waters between southernmost Vietnam and northern Malaysia, according to Vietnam's director of civil aviation.
"An AN26 aircraft of the Vietnam Navy has discovered an oil slick about 20 kilometers in the search area, which is suspected of being a crashed Boeing aircraft - we have announced that information to Singapore and Malaysia and we continue the search," Lai Xuan Thanh, the director of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam, told the New York Times in reporting the sighting of the slick.
Mr Thanh said the oil on the surface on the water was somewhat closer to Vietnam than Malaysia at the mouth of the shallow Gulf of Thailand.
Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that it was working with the authorities who have activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft.
Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, said in a statement that 15 aircraft and nine ships were searching for the missing plane. Without saying where his government suspected that the plane might have disappeared, he added, "Our priority now is to widen the search area and provide support to relatives of those missing."
The United States Seventh Fleet said in a Twitter message that it was sending a destroyer, the U.S.S. Pinckney, and a P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft to join the search for Flight MH370.
China has also sent two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in any rescue, state television said on one of its microblogs.
The aircraft's pilot was Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian captain, who has flown more than 18,000 hours. The first officer was Fariq Ab Hamid, 27, also of Malaysia, who has flown more than 2700 hours.
Malaysia Airlines initially reported seven Australians were on board, but the number was quickly revised to six.
On Saturday afternoon, the airline said it had been successful in contacting about 80 per cent of passengers' families.
Vietnam's official website said the plane disappeared in Vietnam's airspace.
"The plane lost contact in Ca Mau province airspace before it had entered contact with Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control," a statement posted on the website said.
Conflicting reports surfaced on Saturday afternoon over claims in Vietnamese and Chinese media that the missing plane's signal had been detected in the middle of the ocean.
Vienamese news site VN Express had quoted Pham The Hien, director of the country's search and rescue co-ordination centre, saying a signal was detected 230 kilometres south-west of Cape Ca Mau. But he later said those reports had been inaccurate, and his team was continuing to look for the missing plane's signal.
With the arrivals board at Beijing's international airport still showing the Malaysian Airlines flight was delayed, distraught family members were being shepherded by police and airport staff to a nearby hotel to await further information.
One woman, Zhai Le, said her friend was on board the flight.
"They keep saying there's no information," she said through tears.
Another man, who declined to be named, said he had been waiting for his boss, a French national, when he heard the news.
An unconfirmed report from a flight tracking website said the plane had plunged more than 200 metres and changed course in the last minute that it had transmitted data.
Chinese authorities have reportedly said the flight never entered Chinese airspace.
"It doesn't sound very good," retired American Airlines captain Jim Tilmon told CNN on Saturday.
He said that the route was mostly overland, which meant that there would be plenty of radars and radios to contact the plane.
"I've been trying to come up with every scenario that I could just to explain this, but I haven't been very successful."
He said the plane was "about as sophisticated as any commercial airplane could possibly be".
Malaysia Airlines denied reports circulating on the internet the plane had landed safely in Nanjing China.
One uncertainty about the flight involved when it disappeared from radar and how quickly the search began in the Gulf of Thailand. Malaysia Airlines said that the plane took off at 12.41 am Malaysia time, and that the plane disappeared from air traffic control radar in Subang, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, at 2.40 am.
That timeline seemed to suggest that the plane stayed in the air for two hours — long enough to fly not only across the Gulf of Thailand but also far north across Vietnam. But Mr Lindahl of Flightradar 24 said that the last radar contact had been at 1.19am, less than 40 minutes after the flight began.
A Malaysia Airlines spokesman said on Saturday evening that the last conversation between the flight crew and air traffic control in Malaysia had been around 1.30 am, but he reiterated that the plane had not disappeared from air traffic control systems in Subang until 2.40am.
Fuad Sharuji, from Malaysia Airlines' operation control centre, said the pilots made no distress call.
The missing plane is believed to have been involved in a crash in August, 2012, when it damaged the tail of a China Eastern Airlines plane at Shanghai Pudong Airport, according to unconfirmed reports.
In the incident, the tip of the wing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 broke off.
Malaysia Airlines said its "thoughts and prayers" were with all the passengers on board the missing plane, and their families.
"[The] focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilise its full support," chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.
Malaysia Airlines is the national carrier of Malaysia and one of Asia's largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide.
The airline said the public can call +60-378841234 for information about the plane.
There were no storms in the area of the South China Sea where the plane was flying across. The weather was generally fine with light clouds.
Malaysia Airlines' vice president of operations told CNN that no distress call or problems were reported from the aircraft prior to its disappearance. The plane was reportedly flying at 35,000 feet at the time.
"We are extremely worried," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing. "The news is very disturbing. We hope everyone on the plane is safe."
The plane had enough fuel to fly for seven hours, one hour more than the flight time to Beijing.
Boeing said in a statement that it was assembling a team of technical experts to advise the national authorities investigating the disappearance of the aircraft.